W6: What Draws You to Your Primary Text?

The issue of rape on college campuses seem to be such an ironically taboo subject on college campuses across the nation and amongst conversation in family households. This issue is only brought up in mandatory programs that incoming college students must complete, but these programs do not portray the true depth and seriousness of the issue. However, I came across a video that portrayed these graphic and disturbing scenes of the realities of rape and sexual assault on college campuses along with their process of recovery after the incident has occurred. This video happens to be a music video titled “Til It Happens To You” written and sung by Lady Gaga and directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Without just explicitly stating that rape on college campuses is occurring in different scenarios today, they allow the viewer to see actual incidents of rape and sexual assault and not just hinting towards them. The scenes that particularly drew me in was the opening scene, the three incidents of sexual assault and rape, the moments when the camera flashes to the words written on the girls’ arms, the last few scenes where the girls are shown with family and friends, and the ending scenes that displays a statistic and a number to call for help. These scenes- along with Lady Gaga’s powerful lyrics that also drew me into the video- accurately portray rape on college campuses and I felt that this was an intriguing way to discuss the subject without sheltering these young college students of the realities of these tragic occurrences.

The first scene that caught my attention was the opening scene of the video. It begins by showing a black screen with writing that states, “The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.” This quote is displayed for only a few seconds but I feel that right from the start the video already begins to send a powerful message. It warns the audience that the video may be disturbing and that you may not even want to continue to view the video, but it is only showcasing the truth behind what happens to college students, especially girls, the many colleges and universities seem to belittle or sweep under the rug. I felt that Catherine Hardwicke’s choice of not starting the song to dramatize the scene more was a smart decision because it makes the viewer stop and pay attention to what the video is about to show.

The main chunk of the video displays scenes of the four individuals who were sexually assaulted or raped. Catherine Hardwicke chooses to show in graphic detail the actual incidences themselves and does not sugar-coat the severity of these cases. Each scenarios displays how the incidences occur through three males that are either intoxicated, unaccepting of the LGBTQ community, or use drugs to rape these individuals. The director casted four women of various races and orientations to depict how these events could happen to anyone and not just girls who aren’t wearing a lot of clothing and who are “asking for it.” Although the scenes were emotionally disturbing and unpleasant to watch, Catherine Hardwicke made sure to show that rapes are not just stories that individuals create to gain sympathy from other people, and that they are truly gruesome and scarring events. The harsh but true realities of these occurrences are what drew me to this text because of Catherine Hardwicke’s approach by making viewers more aware of the situations that are occurring right now on college campuses.

Furthermore, the scenes that depict the writings on the arms of the victims were especially intriguing to me. Some of these phrases depicted began with “Sometimes I hate myself”, “Believe me”, or “Listen you will hear me,” and then progressed to “I am worthy” and “I love myself.” These quotes, written on the arms of the survivors, show that these victims need to be heard and, more importantly, believed about their situation and not turned away. Catherine Hardwicke’s inclusion of these quick scenes are meant to make the viewers more aware that these victims are real people and that with help from others they can emerge from these tragedies feeling worthy and loving themselves instead of constantly hating themselves and feeling ignored. Also, the writing of these words in marker on their bodies represents a stronger message rather than just simply speaking the words or just showing scenes. They write on their bodies which were violated and send a message that these are their bodies and the public needs to become more aware that this is happening to real people all over the nation.

Additionally, the last few scenes where Catherine Hardwicke reveals how family and friends helped these victims are also powerful. Again, she allows the public to see how by becoming more aware and listening to the survivors that we can help make a difference in the country. Instead of just telling the individuals, “It will get better with time,” the director depicts how just by listening and being there for the person are small instances where you could help with the issue. By not ignoring or claiming that the person is lying, you are helping spread awareness of the issue of rape on college campuses with respect and more knowledge.

Finally, the last scenes go back to the black background with the white writing that displays the statistic that “One in five college women will be sexually assaulted this year unless something changes,” and “For help call National Sexual Assault Hotline 1–800–656-HOPE.” Although they are merely just a statistic and a phone number, they are great tools to help make a change about the issue of rape on college campuses. Catherine Hardwicke includes this blatant statement to encourage more people to discuss the matter and to do something about it. Additionally, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline serves as a tool for viewers to reach out to someone they know or even help themselves if they were victims of sexual assault. Instead of just ending the video with metaphors and depictions of rape situations, Catherine Hardwicke gives you the tools and knowledge to make that change.

In its entirety, the video as a whole is a completely new approach to how people talk about rape. From beginning to end, the video, along with the song’s powerful lyrics and vocals, is a different way to have the population become more aware of situations that are happening currently to young people all over the nation. Catherine Hardwicke’s use of text, disturbing but realistic scenes, scenes portraying powerful phrases, and scenes portraying family and friends were intriguing methods that drew me to this video.

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